This is probably true isn’t it?

Ministers need to be “honest” and admit that they have quietly shifted the burden of basic public services onto households and volunteers, a new report has found.

The Institute for Government said that households are increasingly having to pay for public services ranging from their care in old age to garden waste collections.

Who is there to pay for government but us chickens?

Does Australia produce cotton?

Wearing wool pyjamas to bed instead of cotton gives up to 15 minutes’ extra sleep, new research has found.

Experts say wool helps keep the body in the “thermal comfort zone” most conducive to restful sleep.

Scientists in Australia carried out two studies of young and older sleepers to test the theory.

No, but Australia does produce rather a lot of wool.

Not that this would bias the research, Heaven Forfend, but it might have an effect on how much its publication is publicised….

This HES scandal

As far as I can see there are two competing narratives here.

1) Low bidder screws up and cannot actually do the job. Boo! privatisation.

2) Enviros and others have closed down the high temp incinerators required by the enviros for this waste. Nowt anyone can actually do until new one built.

Anyone got any idea which of these contains even a grain of truth?

Politics, eh?

May moves to end austerity
PM pledges billions despite Brexit uncertainty

Theresa May has declared that Britain’s decade of austerity is over with a pledge to increase public spending after Brexit. The prime minister used her conference speech to make a series of costly commitments that will limit the options of Philip Hammond, the chancellor, in this month’s budget. They also led to immediate demands for more money by other cabinet ministers.

If they get to spend the sweeties then I get to spend more sweeties!

Well, yes

Tonight in one of the world’s richest countries, more than 300,000 people won’t have a home to call their own. They will sleep instead in temporary accommodation, in homeless hostels, in rooms provided by social services – and in the worst case out on the streets.

295,000 of them will be housed at the expense – and rightly so – of the rest of us. We are a rich country and we do things about this. The other 5,000 or so have issues which aren’t about the lack of housing in the first place.

Well, good start perhaps

But now comes the difficult bit:

A village in Switzerland plans to pay residents almost £2,000 a month for doing nothing as an experiment into an unconditional basic income.

Rheinau, on the Rhine river at the border with Germany, hopes to pay participants up to 2,500 Swiss francs (£1,970) a month to ensure they have a guaranteed income whether they work or not.

The village council decided to go ahead with the scheme after more than half of Rheinau’s 1,300 inhabitants signed up to take part, and efforts to secure funding will now begin.

There’s many a good idea out there it’s getting people to pay for them which is so often the sticking point.

But unlike the national proposals, the Rheinau scheme will not be funded by the taxpayer. Instead the village plans to raise the necessary money through crowdfunding.

The project is the brainchild of Rebecca Panian, a Swiss film-maker who says she was inspired by the rejected national scheme.

“The idea, and the new social system that would go with it, made sense to me,” Ms Panian says on the scheme’s website.

“And, given the social and economic changes around the world, it seemed sensible at least to test an idea for a new future before dismissing it as nonsense.”

Not entirely stupid actually, There are some rich people out there willing to fund basic income experiments. As long as they insist it is an experiment, one that they’ll monitor properly, make all info available etc, they might be able to do it. Makes a nice change really, doesn’t it? Asking not demanding?

That’s why CEOs get the big bucks

TSB chief executive Paul Pester is standing down following criticism of his handling of a bungled IT switch earlier in the year that left thousands of customers unable to access their accounts for days.

Mr Pester, who was singled out for harshly worded criticism by MPs on the Treasury select committee, will leave with immediate effect.

Unlike Ministers who just sail on into the Cabinet after having pissed away the taxpayers’ money. Actually, that’s a requirement of making it to Cabinet.

Wellllll, yes and no

A Labour frontbencher used taxpayers’ money to silence his Jewish Parliamentary assistant after she accused him of religious discrimination, The Telegraph can disclose.

Khalid Mahmood, the shadow foreign minister for Europe, was taken to an employment tribunal by Elaina Cohen, his assistant and former lover.

The case was settled and Ms Cohen signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) as a condition of an out-of-court settlement, which bars both him and her from discussing the matter publicly.

Mr Mahmood’s costs of dealing with the claim were covered by insurance, which is funded by the parliamentary expenses system and made available to all MPs.

Well, yes, there’s he fun of a Jew and a Muslim getting it on, he employing her, then the religious discrimination allegation and so on. But the claim that using standard employers’ liability insurance (I think that’s right?) to defend the clam an then insisting this is taxpayers’ money? That’s going a little far I think, no? I mean, yes, suppose it is, but we don’t want MPs to be insured? Rilly?

Allow me to translate the naked self-interest here

Jeremy Corbyn is half-right about the BBC – and 100% right about big tech
Roger Mosey
The Labour leader’s Alternative MacTaggart lecture had some good ideas – especially taxing tech firms to pay the licence fee


Roger Mosey is Master of Selwyn College, Cambridge, and a former BBC executive.


Corbyn is 100% right to re-examine the relationship between the new technology companies and traditional media. We have seen in recent years how little Facebook and Twitter care about truth and accuracy – and it’s vital to defend the media organisations that, despite their imperfections, seek to shore up the values that support our society. Newspapers have seen their content assimilated and their profits shredded by the Silicon Valley giants, so it is welcome that a major British political party is looking at how to tip the balance back in favour of journalism.

There are also signs of coming to terms with the relative lack of funding the BBC and other broadcasters get compared with the global behemoths: the BBC may still be big in the UK, but it is tiny compared with the American giants. Amazon, Apple and Netflix can potentially swat aside the European public service broadcasters in the way that online shopping is ravaging the high street. The proposal to tax the undertaxed global companies to support British content and British news is highly attractive.

What needs to be viewed with much more caution, though, is the Corbyn idea that BBC directors should be elected, in some cases by the staff and in others by the wider, licence-fee-paying public. There is certainly a case to be made against the current murky government and BBC management nomination processes, but worrying thoughts come to mind about “democracy”: the tiny turnout there is for elections for police and crime commissioners, the constant emails from building societies inviting you to vote for their new directors, about whom you know little and care even less – and then, of course, the possibility of these processes being hijacked by pressure groups. I have also sat through enough consultation panel meetings in the BBC to be wary of well-intentioned advice that can also be impractical, time-consuming and lacking in any empirical basis.

The last thing the BBC needs is to be hobbled by even more advisory committees packed with special interest groups, or to discover that the public have elected three members of Ukip to their main board. Equally, I would resist the notion that editors should be elected, in the BBC or anywhere else. The best journalistic editors would not necessarily win popularity contests.

What an excellent idea that we have lots of other peoples’ money but you’ll leave us alone to spend it, thank you very much.

Because government’s a pretty shit way of doing most things

One of my abiding childhood memories was being given my first wheelchair. Until I was six, I had to resort to a large buggy, a mass of translucent plastic frames and ugly grey wheels. It was through the charity Whizz-Kidz that I finally got my first wheelchair, a streamlined seat in midnight purple. I remember taking my newfound freedom to my local Morrisons, home of the shiniest floor in town. I had gone from being trapped in plastic to sitting in a rocket ship, throwing myself down the crisps and snacks aisle.

A decade later, I had outgrown the chair and my family were back to working out how we would pay for a new one – this time a pricier, electric wheelchair that cost at least £5,000. My mum wrote to the board of local charities, we saved what we could, and Whizz-Kidz again filled in the rest.

As an adult, two things have stayed with me: gratitude to the organisation that gave me my independence, and a niggling question. Why in modern Britain do families of disabled children have to turn to charity for help?

From our series of Questions In The Guardian We Can Answer.

The basic problem is that a bureaucracy set up to—–well, that’s it really, a bureaucracy isn’t interested in what it does, only that it exists and remains as a bureaucracy. C. Northcote Parkinson and all that……

Blithering nonsense

Tiffin’s diary of life on universal credit is among the most striking contributions so far. The wheelchair user told Alston he is living off £95.35 a fortnight in universal credit payments and that after paying for his electricity and gas, fuel for his adapted car, broadband connection, TV licence and baby milk for his youngest son, he is left with £10.50 for two weeks.

It’s simply not true that he’s living on that, is it?

Where’s the rent? Child benefit?

Simply don’t believe it.

Migrants should get free housing apparently

We’re also pleased the strategy acknowledges that some people, such as migrants, experience additional barriers to getting the support they need to prevent or solve their homelessness.

That’s what I think that means.

Ending rough sleeping means having a plan for every single person forced to sleep rough, so to see the funding commitments to support local areas working with non-UK nationals, and a rough sleeping support team to help resolve their immigration status is very encouraging.

Really, I think it does.

We might find out that “senior paramedic” means union offical

Struggling ambulance trust considers using volunteer and military drivers
Paramedics ‘horrified’ as East of England trust consults on plan due to staff shortages

Well, using volunteer drivers is indeed commonplace in many other countries. Here in Portugal the local fire and ambulance is near all volunteer. Regular fund raisers to get the cash for fuel and equipment too.

What really interests here though is:

A senior paramedic at East of England Ambulance Services said they were “absolutely horrified” by the proposal for volunteer ambulance drivers, even for low acuity patients, adding that it showed how “desperate” the trust was ahead of the winter,

What’s the betting that our senior paramedic is in fact a union official? Horrified at the thought of the unpaid taking his members’ jobs?

A fun claim

A rail boss has been accused of “living on another planet” after claiming that Britain’s railways are the envy of Western Europe.

Robert Nisbet, regional director of the Rail Delivery Group which represents train companies, said that other EU nations can “only dream” of having the UK’s levels of punctuality and efficiency.

Mr Nisbet conceded that passengers had faced “frankly appalling” levels of service, but went on to defend the performance of the railways.

In terms of the total cost as opposed to performance I think he’s onto something too.

Dawn Foster’s numbers

They just never do work out, do they?

Yet for thousands of families, the six-week school break is characterised not by play schemes and day trips in the sun, but acute financial stress, hunger and malnourishment, due to the absence of free school meals for children on low incomes that costs a family £30-£40 a week.

£30 to £40 a week to feed a child?

OK, let’s say two kids, the UK modal family size.

Aaaaah – she means that school meals cost £3 a day. And poor peeps get them free. So, if there’s no school and people aren’t getting the free meals then that costs them £3 a meal.

Which is unadulterated bollocks of course. But then Foster’s numbers never do add up, do they?


Ministers are considering a so-called “retirement levy” which would see taxpayers pay a lump sum to the Government in order to meet the spiralling costs of residential and social care in old age.

The proposals would see retirees make a one-off payment into a ‘national care fund’ which would go towards meeting the costs of funding their stay in residential homes, it is understood.

Why not just let people pay a lump sum to an insurance company? Even, finance it over a working life with monthly payments?

Why, we could invent a word for it maybe. Assurance possibly? A pension even?

So much for international diplomacy

EU institutions are far from perfect. They can appear remote and rigid. They have an infuriating habit of delaying crucial decisions until confronted with a sense of impending doom. And yet, by the standards of international diplomacy, the EU is both efficient and democratic.

If the EU’s as good as it gets then perhaps this international diplomacy gig is something we should ignore?

That’s rather the point, isn’t it?

The House of Commons public administration and constitutional affairs committee found there are fundamental flaws in the way the government awards contracts because of “an aggressive approach to risk transfer”.

The report, published on Monday, found that ministers try to spend as little money as possible when awarding contracts while forcing contractors to take unacceptable levels of financial risk.

Often the government does not fully understand the risks it is transferring to private companies, the committee says.

It’s a risk, so no one does understand it properly, of course.

But then that’s rather the point isn’t it? That the people carrying the risk have skin in the game? That capital is at risk as that buffer against that risk?